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Summer crowds increasing, lifeguards on alert with multiple responsibilities

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Summertime crowds are coming out strong after the COVID-19 rules eased back last month, and the beaches are one area where the impact is being felt.

Lifeguards along the Santa Barbara waterfront have a large area of responsibilities and they can increase with the surge of people coming to the waterfront. That was evident during the Fourth of July weekend.

Going forward it's expected to be a very busy six-to-eight weeks in the core of summer before school resumes.

Going forward it's expected to be a very busy six-to-eight weeks in the core of summer before school resumes.

Santa Barbara City Aquatic Supervisor Tony Sholl says, "I think it is going to be a really busy summer for lifeguards to have to deal with especially on the weekend we see a large amount of crowds."

He says lifeguards need to keep their head on a swivel to watch over a large area.

One parent from Arizona who spent time in Carpinteria as a child said she makes sure her kids know the beach conditions well, including the dangers of erratic conditions.

Margo Oberly tells them to, "stay within eyesight of us, always makes sure you are always in front of us because  you can start to drift down the beach. We talk to them about what rip currents are."     She says, never swim alone. "Always be in pairs, nobody goes alone."

Lifeguard stations along the Santa Barbara waterfront are fully staffed and are already busy responding to calls.

These days the waters are full of more than just swimmers and boogie boarders in the near shore waves. There's also an increasing number of surfers, paddle boarders, kite surfers, kayakers, inflatables and many other water crafts that can be fun one moment and a problem the next.

Lifeguards are urging the public to be familiar with the way they have fun in the water, be aware of the conditions and do all they can to prevent accidents. That would include using boats and boards in a safe manner, and knowing how to swim.

If you are concerned about your safety, set up near the lifeguard tower and talk to the guard on duty. "They'll let you know the conditions of the ocean, where any hazards are, where to be and where not be," said Sholl.

He also says, "have a water watcher.    Somebody designated to watch the water, it is not all up to our lifeguards." Sholl says someone's behavior at the beach can also be distracting to the lifeguards.
"Don't come out here and drink on the beach," he said. The lifeguards also don't want to shift their focus to tell people to take their barbecue off the sand or that dogs aren't allowed, especially when the rules are clearly posted.

He says the lifeguards also have to spend a lot of time on binoculars because of the range of beach they cover.

If a guard leaves a tower, "whether it is a rescue or a public contact, the other lifeguards start shifting over."

This year the city had three tryouts for guards. The ones chosen were teenagers all the way up to the mid 50's.
All had to qualify through a rigorous test and everyone is all in, when they post up.

"They have a big heart as well," said Sholl.  "They want to help people and they are willing to put themselves into harms way to be in that position."

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John Palminteri

John Palminteri is senior reporter for KEYT NewsChannel 3. To learn more about John, click here.

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